World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines from 1942-1945 rank among the most tragic events ever to have affected the Province of Batangas. Thousands were massacred by the Japanese and countless more had to endure hunger as well as the loss of homes and means of livelihood.
In this article, Batangas History brings contemporary readers ten little-known trivia about the occupation as well as the war as it was fought in Batangas, not only for educational purposes but to ensure that the horrors of war are not forgotten. For those who wish to follow through on important information provided in this article, sources are cited under the Notes and References section at the bottom of this page.
1. The Nasugbu Landing was Codenamed X-Day
As a matter of tradition, military planners had used the term “D-Day” to designate “an important invasion or military operation1.” For the Nasugbu Landing of 31 January 1945, however, the code name used was “X-Day” according to Major Edward Flanagan2 of the 11th Airborne Division, who was part of the landing party that day. The entire landing operation, however, was called “Operation Mike 6.” Operations reports of some sea-crafts used in the landing, such as the LCI(G) 5613 however, referred to the landing as “X-Ray Day.”
2. A Guerrilla Group formed in Lemery Split into Two
In January 1942, because soldiers of the Philippine Constabulary in Batangas were isolated from the main force defending the Philippines in Bataan, their companies were disbanded by the commanding officer. However, after the fall of Bataan, they received orders to report to a command post in Lemery “to continue the resistance movement against the enemy4. These constabulary men were to form the nucleus of a guerrilla movement who would, however, split into two different units led by Filomeno Gagalac and Luis Licopa. A United States Army investigation into the two units reported that the Gagalac Guerrilla Unit and the Licopa Guerrilla Unit, as they came to be generally known, had their “own areas of operation” and “continued to cooperate with each other5”.
3. Guerrillas Sabotaged Japanese Cotton Plantations in Tuy
During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, farmers and landowners were coerced to plant their fields to cotton, not just for mills back in Japan but also because cotton was used in the manufacture of ammunition. In the town of Tuy, guerrillas of the town’s Fil-American Irregular Troops (FAIT) unit sabotaged plantations to ensure that the cotton crops failed. Farmers were instructed “to throw away the fertilizers supplied them and at night uproot the cotton plants halfway when they were blooming, being careful that they were not to be noticed by the Japanese inspectors upon their inspection6.”
4. The Airfield in Lipa was Built using Forced Labor
What is presently known as Fernando Air Base of the Philippine Air Force was built upon what used to be the Lipa Airfield of the Japanese Imperial Army. The airfield was built by the Japanese “on the site of a cocoanut7 grove” using forced labor, either American prisoners-of-war8 or local labor. Local labor was recruited from the barrios in and around Lipa. The “historical data” for the barrio of Antipolo said that “Those who did not like to work in the air base were suspected as anti-Japanese and were branded as guerrillas. The people of this barrio could not refuse, for there were spies roaming around9.”
|The Lipa Airfield after it was captured and improved by the United States Army. Image credit: US National Archives.
5. The First Soldier on the Beach during the Nasugbu Landing
The first soldier on the beach during the Nasugbu Landing of 31 January 1945 was one Lt. Colonel Ernie LaFlamme of the 188th Glider Infantry Battalion. He and his battalion were selected because of his familiarity with the area. Before the war, LaFlamme had been assigned to Fort McKinley – presently called Fort Bonifacio – and spent many weekends on the beach with his wife at Nasugbu10.
6. The Killing of Barrio Ambulong’s Teniente in Tanauan by “Guerrillas”
The “historical data” for the barrio of Ambulong in Tanauan documented the abduction and subsequent killing of the barrio’s Teniente del Barrio, one Aquilino Mainot, by “a band of guerrillas from Cavite under the command of the notorious ‘Heneral’ Tisio during the Japanese occupation11. Whether these guerrillas were legitimate at all was dubious. Eleuterio Adevoso, commander of the famous Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas, in communications to the commander of the US Army in the Southwest Pacific, described Tisio’s group as “generally considered as outlaws” and made up of “untrained, hardly principled men” who were “feared by all non-members of that organization12.”
7. World-Renowned Filipino Violinist Killed by the Japanese in Tanauan
Then world-renowned Manila-born Filipino violinist Ernesto Vallejo was, regrettably, among the countless victims of Japanese atrocities in Batangas early in 1945. Vallejo, among other things, was the first-ever Filipino soloist of the Manila Symphony Orchestra; gave a “command performance for then-US President Calvin Coolidge at the White House”; and was “the first violinist to debut at the New York Town Hall to great acclaim13.” Ironically, Vallejo with his wife and two children had evacuated to Tanauan thinking that the Japanese “would not commit atrocities there, since it is puppet President Laurel’s home town14.” Vallejo was among many civilians gunned down by the Japanese on 10 February 1945 by Japanese soldiers on the verge of panic because of the landing of American forces in Luzon15.
8. Guerrilla Activity in Batangas was Coordinated by one Major Vanderpool
Beginning November 1944 going into the Nasugbu Landing, one Major Jay D. Vanderpool served as General Douglas MacArthur’s special liaison to coordinate the movements and activities of guerrilla units operating in Southern Luzon, especially Batangas. Among his immediate tasks was to persuade “the guerrillas to put aside parochial differences and agendas to support American requirements16.” After the Nasugbu Landing, he reported to General Joseph Swing, commander of the 11th Airborne Division, which fondly referred to him as “The Little Corporal” because he was “small, nervous and intense17.”
9. Batangas Town was Bombed on 12 December 1941
Although the Japanese Imperial Army did not land troops on Philippine soil until late December 1941, earlier that same month, it had started “softening” targets throughout the country with a series of bombing raids. The “historical data” of Batangas (Town) described the first of these conducted on the 12th of December: “About 10:00 a.m., Monday, December 12, 1941, two waves of Japanese planes, each numbered 27, the first group bombers and the second wave fighters flew above the town. The bombers flew southward into the skies over the town while the second wave of planes flying from the north trailed behind. The first group circled and returned, raining death and destruction on the airport and its surroundings. Three U.S.A. fighter planes were destroyed, a pilot killed and several people dead and others wounded. Two Filipino pilots, Lt. Jesus Villamor and Mondoniedo, miraculously escaped death and successfully soared their planes straight towards the enemy planes and let their guns loose in spite of the numerical superiority.”
10. The Vital Capture of the Palico Bridge
Because the United States 8th Army, to which the 11th Airborne was attached, was smaller than the 6th Army that had landed in Lingayen earlier in January 1945, its success was dependent upon speed of movement to exploit the element of surprise in its pursuit of disorganized Japanese forces retreating up into Tagaytay. The Americans had a stroke of luck in arriving at the Palico Bridge – gateway to Tagaytay – just as Japanese soldiers were about to blow it up. Author Edward Flanagan, in his book about the 11th Airborne, described the scene: “The advance was so swift that the Japs who had the steel-trussed span mined were caught on the far side of it. They attempted to get their detonator, but our fire from the west bank of the Palico killed six and forced the rest to withdraw to Tagaytay. Capture of the bridge allowed us to keep moving ahead18.”
Notes and references:1 “What does the “D” in D-Day mean?,” online at the United States Army WWII Museum.
2 “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division 1943-1946,” by Major Edward M. Flanagan Jr., published 1948 in Washington.
3 “LCI(G)-561 - Rep of ops in the assault landing at Nasugbu, Luzon Is, Philippines 1/31/45,” online at the United States National Archives.
4 “Additional Organizational Report by Luis Licopa, January 1946,” originally downloaded from PVAO.
5 “Report on the Licopa Guerrilla Unit,” originally downloaded from PVAO.
6 “A Brief History of the Tuy Unit FAIT,” originally downloaded from PVAO.
7 “Cocoanut” was probably “coconut.”
8 “Of Rice and Men,” by Robert V. Reynolds, published 1947 in Philadelphia, United States.
9 “History and Cultural Life of the Barrio of Antipolo” 1953, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
10 Flanagan, op cit.
11 “Ambulong, Tanauan, Batangas: Historical Data,” originally from the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
12 “Memo: List of Anti-Japansese Organization in S Luzon, December 1944,” originally downloaded from PVAO.
13 “Remembering the Pinoy violin prodigy of 1945,” by Faye Valencia, published March 2011, online at Yahoo News.
14 “Ernesto Vallejo, Noted Filipino Violinist, Reported Victim of Japs,” article published 30 March 1945 by the Free Philippines newspaper, online at the Internet Archive.
15 “Spotlight on Ernesto Vallejo,” by Francis Yumul, published 22 July 2011, online at the Under the Faint Light blog. The reader will please note that the date given by the “historical data” for poblacion Tanauan was 20 February 1945.
16 “Major Jay D. Vanderpool: Advisor to the Philippine Guerrillas,” by Michael E. Krivido, published 2013, online at the ARSOF Story.
17 Flanagan, op cit.
18 Flanagan, ibid.